Deep within the heart of a mountain many miles from the coast, the entity the Tenaree called ‘The Red Spirit’ brooded. Sitting upon a throne-like projection of basalt and volcanic glass, the being who would claim the vast lands of Palm for her own winced at the pain in her arm. The feeling was unaccustomed as she being a semi-divine being, no weapon made by mortal hands could do her injury.

 

     Yet, two arrow shafts protruded from her forearm with their heads buried beneath the many bracelets of gold now melted and fused into a single piece. Caught between the pair of bones and entangled within the cords of dense muscle, the arm and hand were all but useless. With the sheath of melted gold holding them fast, trying to remove them without further damaging her arm was impossible. She without doubt could simply tear off her forearm, but not only would it be unbearably painful, years would pass before the limb regrew and reached the same level of function. Then too, the loss of her tokens of conquest would diminish her in the eyes of the faithful.

 

     Pulling her damaged red cloak about her, the Red Spirit wished the volcano lived once more. In her distant home, she would descend into an active volcano to see the wonders of the hellish scene! Bathing in lava pools was possible during the rainy season whereby the flooded land would not be set ablaze when she ascended the depths.

 

     Home was so far away, even one such as she could not return merely ‘traveling’ by normal means. She had been cast out long ago by her mother. Though there was still profound hatred for what her mother did smoldering in her heart, the Red Spirit ached just as intensely to set foot upon the land where she was born and be embraced once again.

 

     That, was not going to happen anytime in the foreseeable future. She knew this for she had looked far beyond the curtain of time. What she had seen was in taking these primitive mortals and their lands as hers, the means to create a path home was possible. However long it took, no matter how many lives need be thrown on the fires of her ambition made no difference. Whatever the price, it would be paid.

 

     A sudden presence filled the Red Spirit’s senses then a flash of red flames and billowing black smoke filled her lonely throne room! The Red Spirit made no move and amber fire lit her eyes as she took in her uninvited guest.

 

     What stood before her as the black smoke cleared looked to be a boy of no more than ten or twelve years. He was covered in gray and black stripes with a wide black animal hide belt at the waist. Below the belt swayed a gray gossamer skirt that ended just above his feet. On his hip hung a sheathed sword that looked far too big for him to wield, but the Red Spirit knew better.

Her uninvited visitor's eyes burned red and wisps of black smoke made strange shapes when he blinked.

     “Have the many centuries living alone rendered you incapable of giving greetings to one who took time and effort to guide you into goddesshood?”

 

     Folding her legs beneath her, the Red Spirit bent at the hip and gave greetings to her mentor.

 

     “After an epoch has come and gone, I once more happily lay eyes upon thee mighty Qatula.”

 

     The god narrowed his eyes and gave a grin slightly exposing razor teeth.

 

     “Hmmm, you don’t sound ‘happy to lay eyes upon me’ child. Could it be you are having trouble? It would not be the first time you’ve run against something that vexes you. Perhaps, I can once more be of assistance?”

 

     The Red Spirit’s eyes flashed brighter as her emotions came forth.

 

     “Why would I want your assistance? When last I accepted your guidance, I was banished from my home!”

 

     Qatula smiled broadly making his youthful form seem more menacing.

 

     “Now, now, you got exactly what you asked of me. You wanted to experience the wider realms of existence. You wanted to know how to wield the power within you and rule on high. You wanted to surpass your mother. I provided those opportunities for you and you took them gladly. I also warned you there was no turning back once you started this journey.”

 

     Slamming her hands down upon the dense volcanic throne smashed the natural armrests and caused the cavern to rumble.

 

     “You tricked me! I was an innocent! If being banished from my home wasn’t enough, you abandoned me. How can I possibly trust anything you have to say?”

 

     Still smiling Qatula gave a slow, pronounced shrug of his shoulders and outstretched his hands.

 

     “Hey, I never forced you to do anything you didn’t want to or couldn’t have done on your own. Hanging around with you ad infinitum was never part of our bargain. I gave you exactly what you asked for. You are a fully realized semi-divine being at least in this form anyway.

 

     Of course if you could get back home, you would transcend that which you are and become a ‘true goddess’. That is, if you are willing to hear me out?”

 

     Qatula then waived a hand and the shattered pieces of stone reformed the natural armrests of the Red Spirit’s throne.

 

     “I still hate you. Thank you for repairing this. So what will it cost me this time…ugh!”

 

     The Red Spirit fought the pain of her arm for the sudden outburst aggravated the wound.

 

     Giving a slow whistle, Qatula pointed at her injury.

 

     “Nasty. Where’d you get that? You picking fights with other gods again?”

 

     The Red Spirit cradled her injured arm and looked at Qatula with baleful amber eyes.

 

     “Why do you pretend not to know what is happening? You would not be here otherwise. What you can tell me is; why these damn things hurt me at all!”

 

     Qatula’s smile returned and he spun upon the ball of one foot, his long gray skirt whirling with him.

 

     “Of course I know what doings have occurred in this lovely spot! A spot you’ve taken great steps to turn into an ashen shit-hole. Apparently, what you ‘didn’t know’ is; there are things about a young goddess best beware of. Nasty things which can and will do great, if not grievous injury to her when not careful. So, how’s the arm?”

 

     The Red Spirit burst into flames with anger and frustration lighting the great basalt cavern.

 

     “IT FUCKING HURTS DAMN YOU!”

 

     The youthful looking entity stopped spinning abruptly with his back turned. Gone was the child-like exuberance in the god’s voice. In its place came a rumble which made the cavern shake.

 

     “Child…you best watch your mouth. I know your mother taught you the power your words contain.

 

     You would damn me for your own shortsightedness and shortcomings? You having cobbled together a ragtag gaggle of mortals to run roughshod over this once peaceful land with no opposition, until now is in your eyes…my fault?”

 

     Qatula’s words reverberated down to the roots of the cavern. Flushed with unaccustomed fear, the Red Spirit bowed at the waist and held her arms out palms up.

 

     “Forgive my great mentor and guide in all things! I foolish and mistakenly vented my frustrations upon you, the only entity who truly understands me.”

 

     There was a long and uncomfortable pause as the god kept his back to her. She waited apprehensive for he was a power far beyond her and what she said had been true. No one understood her like he. The dark god before her helped make sense of being divine in ways her mother never could or simply wouldn’t. Without the guidance he provided, she would have been lost to any number of powerful phenomena or entities before she grew strong. It was a great debt she owed and Qatula asked nothing in return.

    “You are right. I got careless. Being challenged by a godling caught me by surprise…and then it angered me. How dare such a stripling believe he could rise up against me!”

 

     Qatula turned back towards the young goddess and the mirth returned.

 

     “Ah, but he was a powerful ‘stripling’ wasn’t he?”

 

     In her frustration, the flames surrounding the goddess turned blue.

 

     “Yes, quite powerful. I have not seen the like! His power though unrefined was primal, unfettered as if it came from the core of existence. How can such power bind itself to a mortal?”

 

     With a raised eyebrow, the red light in Qatula’s eyes flashed bright for an instant and he leaned closer to the still bowing Red Spirit.

 

     “Isn’t it amazing how insight comes when one takes time to calm the mind and think things through? That question my dear as many things will be answered by you in time.

 

     The question you should ask now is; ‘what are you going to do?’ You are so close to your goal. So, so, close! Getting into a bare-knuckle brawl with that ‘primal-powered-godling’ would wreck everything you wish to keep.

 

     You burning down the great forest is no big deal. It will grow back in a few decades. But there won’t be any people left to serve you. The power you must bring forth to put down that godling will wipeout all living things in this land…that would be bad.”

 

     The Red Spirit could see Qatula’s words play out before her as if they were actually happening. With each blow, she and her opponent drew deeper from their wellsprings of power. Fires, earthquakes, lighting strikes, great and terrible winds grew and grew as the conflict continued. Eventually, she would prevail. However, the cost would be terrible! She watched as her ruined form floated in the vast void amid cooling debris of the world she intended to conquer.

 

     “If that weren’t bad enough, while you valiantly fight to throw down the godling, What’s to stop a few more of those vicious little arrows finding their way into your back, heart or skull? If getting shot in the arm is giving you grief, I wonder what taking one between the eyes would do?”

 

     Despite the heat of the flames generated by her, the Red Spirit shuddered at the thought of being struck with more of those arrows!

 

     “Could I be killed by so simple a thing? I am a goddess!”

 

     The god shrugged with palms up and a non-committal expression upon his gray and black-striped face.

 

     “Good question. You really want to find out? Or are you going to use that ‘goddess brain’ of yours and do what needs to be done to secure the outcome you have foreseen?”

 

     In a sudden burst of godlike speed, Qatula was upon her. He held her injured forearm in an unbreakable grip and with his free hand grasped the two black arrow shafts. A great snapping sound shattered the volcanic glass surfaces in the cavern!

 

     Pain in which the Red Spirit had never encountered exploded as the lengths broke off as stubs bare inches from the molten gold ‘skin’ of her arm. In that instant, the god whispered a final warning.

 

     “Know what mortals know all too well, the pain of a broken body! Take this land, take these people, but take no more if you don’t want to know this ‘feeling’ again….”

 

     Red flames and thick black smoke surrounded Qatula as he vanished leaving the wounded Red Spirit much to think about. As she held her injured arm close as the pain subsided, the Red Spirit recognized a protracted fight, power against power with the godling would not do. She had a great host and had given them the tools to break the walls and spirits of Palm’s last great city…that was it!

 

     “As my Tenaree faithful shatter the walls of Sea City, I shall unleash a far more terrifying and powerful weapon to break the spirit of the defenders. In the chaos, I shall leave them no possibility of victory. Godling and dark archer bedamned!”

 

     The long frozen basalt and glass of the cavern glowed bright in the flames as the Red Spirit’s laughter grew. In instants, the ancient rock flowed as lava once more filling the cavern. Amid the hellish scene was the Red Spirit, her malice bringing what was long dead back to life.

****

© 2017 H. Wolfgang Porter. All Rights Reserved.

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